52/52: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
In short, I loved it. Gretchen Rubin, will you be my friend?
As I was reading I was so tempted to drop the book and dig in with some of the ideas that popped into my mind. Thanks to 52/52 though, I buckled down and finished the book first. In the end, this was better, too, because I was able to see how multifaceted her happiness project was instead of thinking that this “one thing” would be great to do in that moment. This also held true about reading her blog, which I could have done instead of buying the book. If I had only looked at her blog though, it would have been temping to click around and not absorb what she was saying fully. By reading the book in its entirety, I didn’t get ahead of myself. That said, I found that as I read things would seep into my days/thoughts that were steering me in a direction of being happier.
- I agree that it’s more helpful to read about someone’s idiosyncrasies than general “self help” books.
- She does all the research—so you don’t have to. This might sound lazy but it is nice to have someone highlight different views, quotes, and ideas on happiness without having to do all the reading/research on my own. But, she also gives suggested reading. I admit that I get giddy when someone gives a list of suggestions.
- Her way of making and keeping track of goals is right up my ally. I loved how specific and detailed they were without being rigid.
Specific things I zoned in on, starting with the most major….
Here’s the big one, based on this paragraph,
“It hit me while I was on the subway. I was reading Bruno Frey and Alois Strutzer’s Happiness and Economics, and I looked up for a moment to ponder the meaning of the sentence ‘It has been shown that pleasant affect, unpleasant affect, and life satisfaction are separate constructs.’ Along the same lines, I’d just read some research that showed that happiness and unhappiness (or, in more specific terms, positive affect and negative affect) aren’t opposite sides of the same emotion—they’re distinct and rise and fall independently. Suddenly, as I thought about these ideas about my own experiences so far, everything slipped into place, and my happiness formula sprang into my mind with such a jolt that I felt as if the other subway riders must have been able to see a lightbulb appearing above my head” (65).
Since my mom passed away I have wondered how it is possible to feel genuinely happy while also so extremely sad. Now it makes more sense to me; I am happy because I have good things in my life, but I am also sad/grieving because of losing my mom. The two don’t have to push and pull on each other the way I felt like they “should”.
Okay, now onto some lighter things…
- Whenever I go over to Derek for a hug I always ask for the “big hug”, meaning I want both his arms totally around me, and mine around him. I found it comforting when Gretchen wrote, “We hugged—for at least six seconds, which, I happened to know from my research, is the minimum time necessary to promote the flow of oxytocin and serotonin, mood-boosting chemicals that promote bonding” (45). I told Derek about this and now he’s much happier to give the “big hug” and I am happy to receive it.
- Nine months into her happiness project, Gretchen wrote, “Note taking takes a lot of time and energy, and I used to discourage this impulse in myself. It seemed pointless and self-indulgent. But following this month’s resolutions and my First Commandment to ‘Be Gretchen,’ I allowed myself to ‘Forget about results; and take notes guilt free” (230). I also take lots of random, semi-unimportant seeming notes and have often told myself to stop. Usually it’s because I’m afraid someone will find them and ask what they mean or why I wrote them down. It was nice to read someone else’s perspective that it is okay to take notes without knowing exactly why.
- This last one I don’t have an exact place in the book, so I don’t have an exact quote, but Gretchen says that we often overestimate what we can accomplish in a short time and underestimate what we can accomplish over a long period, if a little is done each day. This is so true.
Okay, I really could go on and on about this book. (And if you know me in real life, you’ve probably witnessed it. In fact, Derek agreed to read it because I talked about it so much.) And if you do read it, the part about the woman buying the horse is hilarious.
Two gold stars, Gretchen Rubin.